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Finding your inner pumpkin
October 26, 2013, 05:00 AM By Janani Kumar

The leaves are turning, it’s still dark when you wake up, and the mornings are a little (but noticeably) chillier than before.

But perhaps the biggest change at this time is the addition of a particularly interesting item at many stores: pumpkin.

Just recently, I walked into Starbucks and felt a sudden touch of euphoria when I saw their pumpkin spice latte back on the menu.

The Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer magazine’s October theme was “All Things Pumpkin: Pumpkin in All Things.” Pumpkin in waffles, pumpkin cream cheese, pumpkin butter. It seems like people are going absolutely nuts with pumpkins, myself included.

I’ve always been a fan of pumpkin in many traditional recipes: pie, ravioli, etc.

But this year I decided to explore my inner “pumpkin-ness” and related love for Halloween.

Initially, I was very ambitious and wanted to try all the 17-odd recipes in the Trader Joe’s magazine; upon further contemplation, I realized that that may not be a very practical endeavor.

Instead, I plan on trying a few of the strangest recipes and going to the Lemos Farm pumpkin patch in Half Moon Bay with a close friend this weekend. That will give me a chance to immerse myself (literally!) in “pumpkin-ness” and share in the spirit of Halloween at the same time.

Three weeks ago, a school friend and I baked Halloween-themed cookies, complete with orange, black and purple frosting in the shapes of various “Halloween-y” items while listening to Halloween radio on Pandora.

For those of you who know, this year’s winners of the “biggest pumpkin in the world” competition were Napa’s Tim and Susan Mathison, who grew a pumpkin that weighed a whopping 2,032 pounds. In 2007, a South Carolina farmer set the record for world’s smallest pumpkin, growing a pumpkin with a diameter of .23 inches. In 2010, David Finkle set the Guinness World Record of fastest time to carve a face in a pumpkin with a time of 20.1 seconds.

Talk about achieving true “pumpkin-ness.”

That being said, when I see pumpkins, I can’t help but see them possessing a certain magical quality.

As I was carving a jack-o’-lantern last year, cheesy as this sounds, it was as though my pumpkin had come to life.

That is not to say that I did an amazing job on my Hogwarts crest (the Hufflepuff badger ended up looking like a squirrel!). But my artistic ability (or lack thereof) is not my point. Something about going out on Halloween night and seeing all the jack-o’-lanterns with multi-expressional faces or witches on brooms or angry ghosts sends quite the shiver down my spine. The little flicker of the candle inside makes the carving look so mystic and gives it a certain “look at me if you dare” vibe.

And it looks like I am not the only one who thinks pumpkins are magical. After all, it was a pumpkin that Cinderella’s fairy godmother turned into a golden carriage.

Still don’t believe in the magic? Well, legendary magician Harry Houdini died on Halloween in 1926.

Spooky, isn’t it?

So we have the ancient Celts to thank for bringing this tradition of using pumpkins as lanterns thousands of years ago, a practice that evolved into carving jack-o’-lanterns.

But clearly this is not all we use them for today.

Because it is so seasonal, the pumpkin is a favorite to many, including me, who find creative new ways to enjoy them, whether it be in food, decorations or contributing to the spirit of Halloween.

My advice to you: Go find your inner “pumpkin-ness.”

Janani Kumar is a senior at Burlingame High School. Student News appears in the weekend edition. You can email Student News at



Tags: pumpkin, halloween, pumpkins, carving, lanterns, recipes,

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